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Liver Disease in Dogs

See Supplements for Dogs with Liver Disease

Two liver diseases that affect dogs are chronic hepatitis and copper-associated hepatopathy.  These illnesses impair the dog liver's ability to function properly and are life-threatening if not treated.

Always take your pet to a veterinarian if you suspect they are experiencing liver problems.

If pharmaceutical drugs such as steroids are necessary, ask your vet if your pet would benefit from natural treatments such as milk thistle or antioxidants to combat the harsh effects of NSAID and steroids.


Chronic Hepatitis in dogs

Chronic hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus, bacterial infection, kidney disease or another unknown source. Affected dogs develop a slowly progressive liver disease.

Diagnosis of Dogs with Chronic Hepatitis

Dogs suffering from chronic hepatitis experience vague and non-specific symptoms. These symptoms can include a loss of appetite, vomiting, weight loss, depression, lethargy and increased or decreased drinking and urination. As the disease worsens and the liver continues to fail, causing a build up of toxins in the body, jaundice, blood thinning, the accumulation of fluid, and neurological symptoms such as confusion or convulsions, become evident.

Blood tests to check liver function are used to diagnose the disease, although a definite diagnosis can only be obtained through a liver biopsy.

Conventional Treatment for Canine Hepatitis

Traditional treatment for chronic hepatitis in dogs includes trying to remove the source of the problem, such as a toxin in the environment or a primary illness that triggered the hepatitis. Veterinarians also prescribe steroids as well as a low-protein diet to help the liver return to normal function.

With long term use, steroids can cause problems in dogs such as diabetis and immune suppression. Some owners turn to natural products to help support the liver in a safer way. These herbs aid the body in healing and in regenerating the damaged liver.

Natural remedies for chronic hepatitis in dogs include extracts of herbs such as milk thistle, dandelion and phyllanthus. Anecdotal evidence has shown that milk thisle and dandelion reduce inflammation of the liver and encourage new cell growth, while phyllanthus has anti-viral properties effective against hepatitis.

 


Copper-associated Hepatopathy in Dogs

Copper-associated hepatopathy is a condition caused by an excess of copper in the liver. Copper can enter the body through diets high in this mineral, or through copper in the environment. Some breeds of dogs, dalmations and labradors seem more predisposed to develop this condition.

Diagnosis

The symptoms of copper-associated hepatopathy include an unhealthy looking coat, depression, and frequent drinking and urinating. The problem is diagnosed through blood tests, which include toxicity testing to determine if there is an excess of copper in the blood stream.

Treatment of Dogs with Copper Associated Hepatopathy

Traditional treatment for this condition includes feeding of a special diet based on dairy or soy protein, along with drug treatment to help the body rid itself of copper. Natural remedies, such as glutathione, pyridoxal 5'-phosphate and zinc, can be helpful in treating hepatophy by supporting liver function and helping to detoxify the body.